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International Business & Economics Research Journal - Special Edition 2010

Volume 9, Number 13

Entrepreneurship - Women's Business

M. Tony Bledsoe, Meredith College, USA Rebecca J. Oatsvall, Meredith College, USA


One outstanding impact in the twenty first century US economy is the phenomenally expanding role and importance of women entrepreneurs. The Center for Women's Business Research reports "nearly 10.4 million firms are 50% or more owned by women, employing more than 12.8 million people, and generating $1.9 trillion in sales. " (2007) This growth is evidenced by the fact that majority women-owned firms grew at twice the rate of all firms between 1997 and 2006. (Center for Women's Business Research, 2007) Since Meredith College has unique status as the largest all-female undergraduate liberal arts school in the Southeast, it is positioned to examine entrepreneurial efforts of women. This preliminary research examines demographic information about Meredith College alumnae who are employed by family enterprises or own their businesses. It also examines challenges faced by women in starting and sustaining a business.

INTRODUCTION eredith College was chartered in 1891 as an undergraduate institution for women. In 1899 the first students were admitted and its first graduation occurred in 1902. From that beginning it remained undergraduate studies only until 1983 when it began offering masters degrees in business, education and music - for women only! Much later these degrees were opened to males. All undergraduate alumnae are women. The mission of Meredith College has been enhanced by the mission of the School of Business and that of tlie MBA Program to include "teamwork, leadership, communication skills and ethical decision niaking."(Meredith College, p. 15) The purpose of this research was to examine certain characteristics of undergraduate Meredith alumnae who were identified as having started a business and/or having ownership in a family owned business. GENDER DIFFERENCES In comparing women entrepreneurs with men entrepreneurs, some authors have chosen to focus on factors that affect their planning preferences. Slate focuses on the extent to which women entrepreneurs emphasize "balance of work and life demands." (Slate, p. 16). Concern for family, a desire for flexibility and the goal of working closely with family members seem to be the primary motivators for the women entrepreneurs studied by Slate. Conrad adds that a "focal point of a woman-owned business is the personal relationship." (Conrad, p. 38) An interesting approach is taken by Margaret Heffeman who says that "being a parent most likely enhances one's business success, honing skills that are common to each role." (Peck, p. 8). The work of these authors is similar in that qualitative factors are observed in assessing the ways in which women differ from men. Sharon Hadary, executive director at the Women's Business Research Center in Washington, D.C, sees several obstacles for women entrepreneurs. "The biggest is their apparent reluctance to use debt or equity financing, which leaves personal savings as the main source of startup and expansion capital and earnings from business operations as the main source of ongoing capital." (Conrad, p. 38) Resnick hypothesizes that some women keep their firms small and easily manageable on purpose so that the business will not interfere with time spent with family. She does think that another reason might be that "few women business owners are willing to take the kinds of risks that men do." (Resnick, p. 41) Future research on similarities and differences in risk aversion might validate or reject this idea.


International Business & Economics Research Journal - Special Edition 2010 SMALL BUSINESS DEFINED

Volume 9. Number 13

The Small Business Act describes a small business as "one that is independently owned and operated and which is not dominant in its field of operation." Size standards are frequently stated in terms of the number of employees or in terms of average armual receipts, ( topics/size/index.html While these classifications can be helpful, Headd and Saade point out that non-employer data and employer data differ considerably. (Headd, B and Saade, R, p. 1). Future research with this survey group should include a question which addresses the number of people employed by each firm since current research addressed the size issue only in terms of annual receipts. The importance of research on employer versus non-employer status may also be related to financing options employed by the firm. Headd and Saade found that "employers were more likely than nonemployers to use start-up and expansion financing." They also discovered that employers were more likely to take out bank loans and that "non-employers tended to rely more on credit cards." (Headd, B. and Saade, R.,p.2) . . FINANCING FOR WOMEN-OWNED ENTREPRENEURSHIPS Literature on women-owned businesses and small businesses reveals that the source of financing is extremely important - not only the source of the original financing, but also the source of funds for expansion. Conrad found that when firms need to expand, "differences crop up between the sexes. Women-owned businesses often still do not use debt financing, continuing to rely on savings and profits from the business even when owners could qualify for a loan. And they very seldom even consider equity financing." (Conrad, p. 38) SURVEY RESULTS Of the 134 alumnae identified, there were 95 valid email addresses and 33 usable responses for a 3A.1% response rate. In order to preserve anonymity of the respondents, the first question in the survey asked the respondents to affirm that they understood that the results would be anonymous and would be presented only in summary form. Survey Results are reported in Appendix A. Of the 33 women who responded to the survey, 32 women, or 97% were currently employed by a family business. Most of these businesses were organized as corporations (See Table I) and almost all of the businesses had been in existence for longer than 5 years (See Table II). The researchers did not ask respondents whether the corporations were C corporations or S corporations; this may be an avenue pursued in follow up research. Table I Form of Organization Sole Proprietorship Partnership Corporation Table II Length of Existence Less than 2 years Between 2 and 5 years Longer than 5 years Percentage 3.0% 6.1% 90.9% Percentage 21.2% 6.1% 72.7%

Most of the respondents started the business that employs them (See Table III), but less than half of these respondents owned the entire firm (Table IV) and less than two-thirds owned a majority interest (See Table IV).


International Business & Economics Research Journal - Special Edition 2010

Table III How Ownership Obtained Started a new business Purchased existing business Inherited existing business Received gift of existing business Other Percentage 71.9% 3.1% 9.4% 9.4% 6.3%

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Table IV Ownership 0% Percentage 3.0% 39.4%

51%-99% 100%

15.2% 42.4%

There were a total of 23 respondents (71.9%) who answered that they had started the business themselves. Of these respondents, the majority (59.3%) financed the business from personal resources and only 5 respondents (18.5%) borrowed the funds to begin the business. It is noteworthy that no respondents reported using venture capital. While there was some diversity in the classification of the business, most of the businesses were service or retail in nature (See Table V), and did business mostly in the United States (See Table VI). Of the four firms operating outside the United States, there did not seem to be a common thread. These four companies operated in Europe as well as in Canada, Iceland, India, Russia, South Africa, Australia, Malaysia, Taiwan, and China.
Table V Classification of Business Service Manufacturing Retail Wholesale Other Percentage 63.6% 3.0% 27.3% 3.0% 3.0%

Table VI Scope of Operations Domestic only International only Domestic & International Percentage 87.9% 3.0% 9.1%

The revenues of the businesses varied greatly, with few firms in the ranges $.5 to $1 million or above $5 million (See Table VII).
Table VII Revenues Less than $500,000 $500,000 to $1,000,000 $1,000,000 to $5,000,000 More than $5,000,000 Percentage 36.4% 12.1% 33.3% 18.2%


International Business & Economics Research Journal - Special Edition 2010 CONCLUSION

Volume 9, Number 13

There is little dispute as to the value of women entrepreneurs to the US economic system. Research findings and reporting at the local, state and national levels verify their importance and most factors indicate this trend is likely to continue. This intriguing entrepreneurial movement may present researchers with certain new opportunities and challenges. To date published research findings have vastly increased the body of knowledge about the impact of women entrepreneurs. Many colleges, universities, professional organizations and others have gathered, presented and published information about the plight of women business owTiers. Much of it addresses obstacles that they face when creating an enterprise. This has given rise to examining questions such as M'hat women select to enter, how they gain entry into the chosen field, and why they make their choices about entrance and financing. It is an opportune time for academics and others to pursue methods for addressing these and other key questions as they arise. Academic research efforts in the field of entrepreneurship are at a critical juncture where it is imperative to raise, exatnine, analyze and address questions whose answers may help to build a body of entrepreneurial knowledge. A companion to current research efforts will be the process of collecting, analyzing and publishing findings that will add to the body of entrepreneurial knowledge. To help do this, research efforts may take many avenues. For instance, entrepreneurial researchers could attempt to examine differences between male and female entrepreneurs. Others could select role delineation, management style, rationale for starting a business or other factors for review. So, what does this research effort reveal? This research could be characterized as taking a diagnostic approach that includes gathering, analyzing and reporting demographic entrepreneurial data collected from Meredith College alumnae who work in family enterprises or OWTI their business. The value of this research could be that it will provide an impetus for understanding the motives of women entrepreneurs. Finally, the research challenges are: What do we know? What do we want to know? and. What is the impact of research on women entrepreneurs? AUTHOR INFORMATION Dr. Tony Bledsoe has taught in the School of Business at Meredith College since 1981. He teaches management, entrepreneurship and business policy. His research interests include women business owners, fraud, diversity management, human resource management and entrepreneurship plus case studies for teaching and leaming. Dr. Rebecca Oatsvall has taught in the School of Business at Meredith College since 1984. She teaches accounting and tax and has directed a Study Abroad program to Italy and Switzerland. Her research interests include intemal control, diversity management, entrepreneurship, women business owners and case studies for teaching and leaming. REFERENCES 1. 2. 3. Center for Women's Business Research (2007). Key Facts about Women-Owned Businesses (Pamphlet). Washington, D.C: Author. Conrad, L. (2007, Jan). What Do Women (Owners) Really Want - And Need? U.S. Banker, Vol. 117 Issue l,p. 38. Constantinidis, C , Comet A., & Asandei, S. (2006, April). Financing of Women-Owoied Ventures: The Impact of Gender and Other Owoier- and Firm-Related Variables. Venture Capital, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 133 157. Harding, R. (2007, Nov). Girls of slender means. Z)i>ector, Vol. 61, Issue 4, p. 20. Headd, B. & Saade, R. (2008, August). Do Business Definition Decisions Distort small Business Research Results? An Office of Advocacy Working Paper, Small Business Research Summary, No. 330, 33 pages a series of working papers issued by the U.S. Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy. Meredith College (2008 - 2009). Graduate Catalog and Student Handbook, p. 15. Morris, H.M., Miyasaki, N.N., Walters, C.E. & Coombes, S.M (2006). The Dilemma of Growth: Understanding Venture Size choices of Women Entrepreneurs. Journal of Small business Management 44(2), pp. 221-244. 50

4. 5.

6. 7.

International Business & Economics Research Journal - Special Edition 2010 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14.

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Peck, M. (2007, July), Women in Business: More than an Exception to the Rule. Journal of Financial Planning, Vol. 20, Issue 7, p. 8. Resnick, R. (2007, Jan). Clipped Wings. Entrepreneur, Vol. 35, Issue 1, pp. 40-41. Shennan, A. (2008, Jan). Women: The Boys'Club. Entrepreneur,Vo\. 36, Issue \, p. 32. Slate, B.G. (2007, July, Supplement). Insights for Working with Woman-Owned Family-Run Finns. Journal of Financial Planning, Vol. 20, p. 16. Small Business and Technology Development Center (2009). The Annual State of Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Raleigh, N.C.: SBTDC. Retrieved July 22, 2009, from U.S. Small Business Administration (2008). What is Small Business. Retrieved August 27, 2008, from ( Why Women of Power Win. (2006, Feb). Black Enterprise, Vol. 36, Issue 7, p. 22


International Business & Economics Research Journal - Special Edition 2010 APPENDIX A I.

Volume 9, Number 13

Please verify that you understand your answers will be reported anonymously and responses and results will be presented only in summary format.

COUNT: 33 of 33 (100.0%) MEAN: 1.000 (Scale: 1 - Yes to 2 - No) STDEV: 0.000



No i 0%


Are you employed by a business that you and/or your family own?

COUNT: 33 of33 (100.0%) MEAN: 1.030 (Scale: 1 - Yes to 2-No) STDEV: 0.174 97%


What is the organizational structure?

COUNT: 33 of 33 (100.0%) MEAN: 2.515 (Scale: 1 - Sole Proprietorship to 3 - Corporation) STDEV: 0.834

Sole Proprietorship


Partnership H





How long has the business been in existence?

COUNT: 33 of 33 (100.0%) MEAN: 2.879 (Scale: 1 - Less than 2 years to 3 - More than 5 years) STDEV: 0.415
Less than 2 years 2-5 years More than 5 years I 3% 6%


International Business & Economics Research Journal - Special Edition 2010 5. What percentage of the business do you own?

Volume 9, Number 13

COUNT: 33 of 33 (100.0%) MEAN: 2.970 (Scale: 1 - 0% to 4 - 100%) STDEV: 0.984 0% ownership 3% l%-50%ownership

^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ H



100%ownership J I ^ ^ ^ ^ I ^ ^ ^ ^ H 43%


If you own all or part of the business, how did you get this ownership?

COUNT: 32 of 33 (97.0%) MEAN: 1.750 (Scale: 1 - Started a new business to 5 - Other) STDEV: 1.320
Started new business Purchased existing business Inherited an existing business Received a gift on an existing business Other 72%


If in Question 6, you answered that you started a new business, purchased an existing business, or Other, what was the source of your fnancing?

COUNT: 27 of 33 (81.8%) MEAN: 2.407 (Scale: 1 - Personal resources to 7 - Not Applicable) STDEV: 2.275
Personal resources Lenders Venture Capital Companies Small Business Investment Company Small Business Administration Other Not Applicable

59% 18%


International Business & Economies Research Journal - Special Edition 2010 8. How would you classify this business?

Volume 9, Number 13

COUNT: 33 of 33 (100.0%) MEAN: 1.788 (Scale: 1 - Service to 5 - Other) STDEV: 1.139

Service Manufacturing | 3%


Retail ^ ^ ^ ^ H Wholesale 3% Other I 3%



Which of the following best describes the revenues of your business?

COUNT: 33 of 33 (100.0%) MEAN: 2.333 (Scale: 1 - Less than $500,000 to 4 - More than $5,000,000) STDEV: 1.164
Less than $500,000 36%

$l,000-00D-$5,000,000 More than $5,000,000 33%


10. Which of the following best describes this business? COUNT: 33 of 33 (100.0%) International) STDEV: 0.600
Domestic (U.S.) only


1.212 (Scale: 1 - Domestic


only to 3 - Domestic



Intrnational only

I 3%

Domestic and International



International Business & Economics Research Journal - Special Edition 2010 11. If you engage in business outside the United States, what countries are included? COUNT: 5 of 33 (15.2%) MEAN: 0 (No Numerical Responses) STDEV: 0 Response

Volume 9, Number 13

Canada, India, Europe, Russia Germany mostly, but other westem European countries, as well South Africa, Australia, India, Belgium, Canada, France, Iceland, Italy, Malaysia, China, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom UK and Canada Australia


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